Article By: Logan Hannen

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re talking about engraving the caseback of your watch, particularly, the process of engraving, why you might do it, and what impact it will have on value retention.

Now, we’re talking about caseback engraving specifically, a distinction that is worth noting because people often do engravings like this, and independent manufactures often engrave like this in bulk.

Hand Engraved Rolex Milgauss
Source: DS Engraver

Do I think that looks absolutely insane (in a good way)? You bet your spring bar tool I do, though I just love the Milgauss in general, so I’m biased towards anything that makes that already unique watch even more unique. This, also, is not the discussion we’re having.

When you engrave the caseback on your watch, chances are you’re going to be sending it to either a jeweler or, just as likely, a custom engraver who specializes in engravings of all kinds. Some engraving is done with lasers, others by hand using near-ancient techniques that require intensive training and the proper tools. Either way, it begs the question – why would you get the caseback of your watch engraved?

The most traditional reason to have the caseback of your watch engraved is to mark some special occasion or anniversary, usually putting the date and some kind of (small) message on the back of the watch. This could be a wedding anniversary, a promotion, or just a milestone of spending so long with a certain company. Whatever the reason, it all boils down to marking an occasion and establishing sentimental attachment to the piece as a result.

Engraving on the back of Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona
Source: Hodinkee

Above, you can catch a glimpse of Paul Newman’s personal Rolex Daytona, a piece which Christian watched sell at auction for $18 million. On the back is engraved the phrase “Drive carefully – Me,” a note from Newman’s wife to remind him to, as the message says, drive carefully when he was out racing. Other notable pieces have also turned up over the years, including a story some of you may know – Omega, after having secured their place as the watch worn by the astronauts, began to award those returning from space missions with a solid gold Speedmaster, along with their names and mission information engraved on the casebacks. Below, we look at an example worn by Mr. Wally Schirra, an astronaut now famous among watch geeks for being the inspiration for the Omega Speedmaster: First Omega In Space edition.

Wally Schirra’s Omega “Astronaut” Moonwatch
Source: Space Artifacts

Presidents, too, have had notable instances of caseback engravings, dating all the way back to George Washington’s first presidential pocket watch (which was unmarked with respect to manufacturer). My favorite example, though, has got to be Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Tiffany & Co. signed (which isn’t the same as stamped, since it is only the Tiffany name that appears on the dial) Movado triple calendar. On the back is engraved the phrase “Franklin Delano Roosevelt – With loyalty, respect, and affection. January 30, 1945.” It’s a beautiful, albeit simple piece, a far cry from something like Former-President Bill Clinton’s Timex Ironman.

Former-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Tiffany Triple Calendar
Source: Govberg Watches

Ultimately, it begs the question – what will such engravings do to the value of a watch? This is where things get weird. There are two different perspectives on this issue. The first is the “of course it will lose value” camp, who believe that any potential future purchasers of the watch will not want it to be adorned with someone else’s story, as they will surely want to be able to impart their own story onto it during their ownership. The other camp sounds an awful lot like Christian Zeron when they say that, depending on the buyer, it might actually add to the value of the watch because it increases the intrigue around its previous owner.

Which camp do you fall into, geeks? Do you hate finding vintage pieces that you love, only to have an anniversary etched into the caseback spoil the whole thing for you? Or do you think it adds a layer of mystery and intrigue that is too fascinating to pass up? Sound off in the Facebook group and, until next time, keep it classy, watchfam.